Expect advances in smart and multi-mode mobility as the race towards fully autonomous vehicles hots up, writes Robin Murdoch, managing director of Accenture’s Global Software and Platforms industry practice.

When it started in 1967, it wasn’t hard to guess the agenda for the annual CES show from its name: consumer electronics. And while this might still dominate the show, over time CES has become a major platform for another industry: automotive. This year will once again see the world’s largest automotive companies descend on Las Vegas to showcase how they’re changing the way we get from A to B. So, what can we expect to see?

The biggest theme to watch will be smart mobility. In other words, how cars are set to become an integral part of a new mobility system. New solutions will make car sharing, ride-hailing, and ‘multi-mode mobility’ even more convenient, cost-efficient, and sustainable. And, yes: the race for “fully autonomous” vehicles might enter the next stage this year.

Still, it’s almost impossible to estimate how long it may take for us to be able to just hop into an autonomous car. In the meantime, this year at CES we’ll see the release of related technologies helping us get there. For example, improved LiDAR, the laser radar detection system used for autonomous mapping, as well as advanced camera and image recognition solutions.

There will likely be further innovation to the “back office” too, in the form of enhancements to training data storage, management, tagging and retrieval solutions. Although it might not be the real thing yet, these technologies give us a glimpse into how far the industry is progressing towards get fully autonomous vehicles on our roads.

Stepping stones toward autonomy

While it may not be surprising that autonomous vehicles are firmly on the agenda for CES, you might well be taken aback by the companies making some of the most important advances. Many will not be established players, rather a mix of new start-ups and non-automotive players. We’re already seeing some of this happening.

Companies which had nothing to do with building cars have become key suppliers almost overnight. For instance, Mobileye has been critical to the development of cameras and sensing, and Nvidia for in-vehicle high-performance computing. What’s more, entirely new industries built around algorithms and training data are cropping up fast.

Another technology that will help self-driving cars flourish is 5G. Network providers and telcos are already gearing up for the roll-out of the high-speed standard. Now, all eyes are on the telecommunications market and the US already has major cities (Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Indianapolis to name a few) where 5G now exists in home Internet. The race is on at full speed with wireless providers Verizon, T-Mobile, Spring and AT&T announcing their intentions to form full-on 5G networks across the US.

For 2019, the hype will focus on whether mobile manufacturers release their much anticipated 5G phones, giving consumers speeds thought impossible before. The auto industry will be keeping a watchful eye. 5G will lay the essential groundwork for the connectivity and speed necessary to make driverless cars a reality.

Innovations inside

However, it won’t just be autonomous vehicles in the spotlight. New ‘inner qualities’ will become much more important as more tech makes its way into our vehicles. Announcements about virtual assistants, voice commands, and connectivity will make cars extensions of our homes. We fully expect a new range of solutions for this at this year’s CES, along with serious efforts to create a truly personalised car experience. AI and other solutions will enable cars to learn and react to a driver’s preferences.

Autonomous cars and other automotive technologies have the potential to completely reshape the way we think about vehicle ownership. This will undoubtedly cause a seismic shift in car manufacturing. This year at CES, expect to see both new and old players swooping in to get a strong foothold in time for the next evolution of the industry.

The author of this blog is Robin Murdoch, managing director of Accenture’s Global Software and Platforms industry practice

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